The Missing Fight Film
Asked what it felt like to be hit by Liston, Folley paused and said, “I can’t describe it. You would have to experience if for yourself…”
I’ve always wanted to see the film of the 1960 Sonny Liston-Zora Folley fight. Unfortunately, there isn’t one. That’s a damn shame for every boxing fan. This may have been the finest three-round fight in history, or second only to Hagler-Hearns. Both were wars.
Ranked #1 and #2, Liston and Folley were arguably the two best heavyweights in the world. If Zora had fought Floyd Patterson for the title in 1960, there’s a good chance we’d remember him today as a former heavyweight champion. His reign would have been a brief one because he would have had to fight Liston.
Many people think Ali’s 1967 knockout of Folley was Muhammad’s most impressive fight. Zora was a spent fighter by then, but it shows how highly regarded he was seven years past his prime. A master boxer like the 1960 Folley would have given the 1967 Ali a good fight and based on something Muhammad once said, I’m pretty sure he would concede that point.
Ninety five hundred and twenty two people were on hand to witness the bout. At 212½, Liston was a slight betting favorite. The 198½ pound Folley had a really good first round, a very bad second round, and a truly terrible 28-second third round. When he regained his senses in his corner, he asked Liston what had happened. “I knocked you out,” said Sonny. “Oh, now I remember,” replied Folley. “And they told me not to worry about your right hand.”
“I figured I’d make him miss but he didn’t miss enough,” Folley told the press a short time later. “I knew I could outbox him. I didn’t plan on opening up until the seventh or eighth round. But something happened. We didn’t do it. He’s too big, too strong, to let him crowd. I should have stayed out and boxed. He’s too strong.” Asked what it felt like to be hit by Liston, Folley paused and said, “I can’t describe it. You would have to experience if for yourself.”
Good rounds against Liston were a rare commodity from 1959 through 1963. That first round probably was the best round of Folley’s career because he won it, and won it impressively. The second round had to be his most courageous. He took an early 9-count, got up to mount a ferocious attack, only to have the bell save him at the count of nine. Folley had tested Liston, as Cleveland Williams had, but neither one of those talented fighters ever made it through the third round with him.
To fans of the heavyweights, the two Liston-Williams fights are fun to watch. We’d probably feel the same way about the Liston-Folley fight, if only we had gotten to see it.
Paul Gallender is the author of Sonny Liston – The Real Story Behind the Ali-Liston Fights.